Body art

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Home > The Art of WNBR > Body art


See also: Wikipedia's body painting and body art articles. Want to decorate your bike? Check out our art bike page.

What should I wear, if anything? How can I use my body as a canvas to express myself creatively without looking like I've experienced a "wardrobe malfunction"?

The World Naked Bike Ride dress code is "Bare As You Dare"... How bare is that? How dare is that? Its all up to you, you decide what you are comfortable with. The ride is clothing-optional. Be creative and colourful in expressing yourself! Body painting, customising your bike, and other creative expression is strongly encouraged!

If you look at the history section of this site you will notice different groups have different approaches to their rides regarding body adornment. As an example, in Seattle, The Painted Solstice Cyclists ride during the Summer Solstice Parade & Pageant that prides itself on its display of body painting creativity. In fact some even have dropped the "naked" in their name to call them the Painted Cyclists. Despite their streaker roots, a few among them even look down on participants who are just naked. We don't do that, our event is not strictly artistic, however, we strongly encourage people to express themselves and be colourful. We paint our bodies with political messages or beautiful designs to complement our forms. We pass out flyers informing the public about our message. We use portable public address systems or raise our voices and chant in unison.

Getting people to laugh and smile is a great way to connect and share ideas in a non-threatening way. We realize there will always be the occasional grinch that just can't share the road with cyclists or stand the sight of a natural human being. Fortunately for us, their numbers are decreasing and ours are increasing.

(Ideas and resources for body painting were moved from our older Body Art page).

What to bring

One of a few body painting privacy areas set up for the Seattle WNBR 2005 event.


  • Sunscreen (several people reported burns last year, facial/waterproof sunscreen is recommended if you want some on the face without being blinded by it dripping into your eyes). Put on the sunscreen FIRST then allow it to dry a bit before putting on sunscreen. Be sure to reapply it when necessary.
  • A "minimum" to wear if necessary (please bring it with you on the ride). We also are recommending a t-shirt (possibly with long sleeves), if you are concerned about burning. Remember t-shirts do not completely protect you from UV rays. If you want more protection try Sun Precautions.
  • Your creativity, a non-antagonistic, fun-loving attitude and common sense when it comes to respecting peoples' personal space and ride safety.
  • $$$ Some artists will want some money to paint you. Paint and supplies cost money. Labor and time are also well worth your dollars. This is another good reason to bring a friend.
  • Compliments and smiles for your artist!
  • Hot/cold beverages and snacks.

Shade/Privacy Screening

Check out Burning Man's page for Camping Gear, Tents, Shade Structures and military surplus for ideas.
  • Privacy area. If bodypainting is done in a public area, not all the participants feel comfortable with people watching, especially if they have never been in a social nudity situation before. Tents can be put up, screens can be arranged. The Seattle ride is the first WNBR ride to setup such an area in a public park.
  • Sun shade/shelter. So your artists don't fry to a crisp in the sun or get pelted by the unexpected rain.

Painting gear

  • Face paints. These paints are also body paints. See the Snazaroo site for thousands of PG13 ideas and pictures & painters. Another good link is FACE The Face Painting Association [1]
  • Bodypaint use face paint & theatrical body paint, (brands to look for are Fardel, Snazaroo, Ben Nye, Mehron, Paradise, Wolfe, Grimas & Kryolan) temporary tattoo paint, henna. Whatever you use check for skin safety. Some of these paints should be kept away from mouth and eyes due to FDA regulations. Please check for these details.
  • Liquid Latex body paint can actually be "paint-on clothing", and you just peel it off when you're done! Liquid Latex dries to form opaque rubber designs, patterns, or garments, so it also works as a sun barrier, and it's even waterproof. Be careful of hair, though - you'll want to have little or no body hair, or have it trimmed very short. The innovator and leading manufacturer (since 1997) of safe, top quality liquid body latex is Deviant in California. For info or to buy online, the Deviant Liquid Latex website is
  • Temporary tattoo paint is usually alcohol based (typical brands are Temptu, Michael Daley, OCC Cosmetics, Reel Creations) it is more expensive, but if applied to clean, oil free skin (that means no sunscreen) it will stay put and look good longer for days.
  • Textile acrylics, Non-toxic & the ASTM non-toxic label are for ingestion & DO NOT apply to external application. See here for more information
    • Non toxic textile screen printing ink/CREATEX Airbrush Colors SHOULD NOT be used on the body see here - they are for textiles/wood/ceramics etc!!!! Body paint is cheap & lasts in the pot for ages, it's water based & safe. If you want an acrylic paint the only safe one for skin use is Matisse Derivan from Australia & it meets the Aus skin Safety regs, it is available in the UK & USA but is difficult to obtain. Derivan Face and Body Paint. It is also packaged as Tim Gratton's Face and Body Paint.
  • Inexpensive foam brushes are favorites for applying the paint in broad strokes.
  • Regular artists brushes are great for body paint application alternatively many of the face paint manufacturers produce a line of brushes, but they can be more pricey.
  • Sunscreen none of the above contain sunscreen! They frequently will block the sun but are not guaranteed!! so make sure you are covered where you are not painted.
  • Black light body art painter. Body art painting by Youri Messen-Jaschin
  • Painting and mixing containers. Reuse your yogurt tubs and plastic containers to mix paints and clean your brush.
  • Sealer spray if you want it to stay on after being in the water. Ben Nye makes this, Mehron also make a mixing liquid which helps to waterproof make up & can be used in place of water with pretty much any brand.
  • Moist wipes, old rags or paper towels to wipe or wash off your hands.
  • Long mirrors, people like to see the progression of their paint job without having to walk to a bathroom or somewhere else to find a mirror. Tape edges thoroughly for safety. No broken glass!
  • Drop cloth, carpet square, chunk of cardboard or an old towel to stand on while being painted. (others may bring some too).
  • A bucket, box, artist supply box, or backpack to carry your supplies.
  • Reference drawings/sketches, photos, and color tests to previsualize your ideas.
  • Airbrush setup to put on a lot of paint quickly and evenly and to blend colors nicely.
  • Stencils

Body painting tips

Note: much of this info comes from the Solstice Cyclist site

Dealing with hair

You can definitely paint over hair (pubes, head hair and all over body hair) although it can be a bit trickier to get an even coat. Body hair also makes removing certain types of paint more difficult and more painful. Some folks get into the hair removal aspect (see glabrousness) while others chose to go au naturel. It's up to you.

"The Goldfinger Effect": Is it dangerous to cover the whole body with paint?

Basically, skin can perspire without interuption when coated with bodypaint.

Comments posted at Philip Greenspun's Body painting page:

"In fact the skin does not really "breathe". Oxygen is brought to the blood via diffusion through a thin membrane. It supposes huge thin surfaces, as well as large volume of blood pumped around this surface. This is basically what is going on in your lungs for the air, in your intestins for the food. Lungs area is the same order of magnitude as a soccer game field area, and there is only a very thin barrier between numerous blood vessels and air. Problem about "skin breathing" is a problem of heat. Indeed some substances can clog heat elimination and block sweat glands. In this case body temperature can increase quickly. And then will breathing rythm increase, making the victim look like suffocating." Comment by Jean-Francois Amadei.

"Oh and the thing about not covering the whole body is not true. It is perfectly safe to do so... someone has been watching too much James Bond (Goldfinger!) In the world of fetish some people clad themselves entirely in rubber with nothing but a small straw sticking out of their mouths to breathe, all that happens is they sweat a lot. Most make-up is breathable to a certain extent, although if it is very thick a model may sweat. Dri Clor or a really powerful anti-perspirant applied first will do the trick, follwed by a good dose of spray sealant once you are finished." Comment from Emma-Jane Cammack.

I suspect the 'goldfinger myth' is in part inspired by the unfortunate experience of the original Tin-Man actor in the Wizard of Oz, who was painted all all over with lead paint, and became very sick from lead-poisoning, and was replaced for the role. Comment from richinud

Removing the paint

Most body-paint is not oil-based, but if you used oil-based makeup/paint, you'll need to use something like coldcream or vegetable oil to loosen up the paint before removing it with soap and water. It's recommended to use normal non-oil body paint to facilitate easy removal.

To remove non-oil based paint, use lots of warm, soapy water, a washcloth, and a friend to scrub areas you can't reach easily. Most paints come off in little flakes so try using a hair snare in your drain to prevent them from mucking up your plumbing. (2) "Pressure washing" method: Attached a spray nozzle to a garden hose, turn the water on, adjusting the nozzle until the water was a concentrated jet. This essentially peels the paint right off the body. Combined with some sea salt and a good liquid soap (like Dr. Bronner's) you can be clean in a record 30 minutes. It's probably not a bad idea to stand in a kiddie pool or on a tarp to keep the paint flakes out of your lawn. (optional) Dry scrubbing first before washing. Use an old, rough washcloth to gently abrade the paint off and then lathered up and rinsed.

Decorate your helmet!

Helmets can sometimes look pretty drab, and there is disagreement about whether it is a good idea to wear one. See Bicycle Helmet Research Foundation (sceptical) and the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute (in favour of compulsion). However, if you do choose to wear a helmet, or are forced to by the law where you live, get creative and customize it! Some even offer creative helmet covers (eg: Nogin Sox).

See also

External Links